Classic rock collections great for Christmas giving

Doug Gallant
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Christmas is now just weeks away.

But if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably still got people to shop for.

In the three columns that remain before Dec. 25, I intend to devote this space to albums I believe could make some people very happy if they were under the tree Christmas morning.

If there are any classic rock fans on your list there are two records that come immediately to mind, both of which should be relatively easy to track down.

The first of those records is Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day.

Recorded four years ago at London’s 02 Arena as part of a tribute to Ahmet Ertgun, the founder of Atlantic Records, this album features 16 songs drawn from the length and breadth of their career.

Virtually every song here is considered a classic.

The 18,000 people lucky enough to have their names drawn for tickets — 20 million people applied for tickets through a worldwide lottery — heard ripping great versions of career makers like Ramble On, Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, Rock And Roll and Whole Lotta Love.

Any question as to whether they still had what it takes to do justice to these songs was quickly dispelled. Lead singer Robert Plant can’t hit some of the high notes that used to send shivers down my spine, but his performance here shortchanged no one. And Jimmy Page is still one of the most exciting guitar players on the planet. When he dished up some of the signature runs from Stairway to Heaven and Black Dog I still got goosebumps.

Founding members Plant, Page and John Paul Jones and their special guest Jason Bonham, the son of their late drummer John Bonham, had great chemistry on stage, chemistry aided and abetted by rehearsals that began some six months earlier.

In the liner notes of the album, Jones offered these thoughts.

“As soon as we got together at the first rehearsal to explore the possibility of whether we could still play together and be as powerful and exciting as we once were, the answer was blindingly obvious, the energy and the chemistry were absolutely still there,” Jones said.

“The show itself felt like the first night of a tour. We wanted to keep everything simple and real, to let the power of the music speak for itself.”

Celebration Day is available in multiple video and audio formats.

The deluxe version features the full concert on one blu-ray and two CDs or one DVD and two CDs, plus a bonus DVD featuring footage of the full dress rehearsal at Shepperton Studio, plus BBC news footage.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Special anniversary

Thirty-five years ago this year blues-rocker Eric Clapton recorded one of the most beloved albums of his career, Slowhand.

To mark the occasion, Polydor Records and Universal Music Enterprises have released a special anniversary edition of Slowhand I suspect will have some fans dancing in the streets.

The anniversary release features all the tracks that were on the original release, such as Cocaine, Lay Down Sally and Wonderful Tonight, plus a whole lot more.

Slowhand is available in standard, deluxe and super deluxe editions.

The version of Slowhand I received featured no less than 22 tracks.

Included in that mix were four outtakes from the Slowhand sessions, Looking at the Rain, Alberta, Greyhound Bus and Stars, Strays And Ashtrays.

Included as well are more than a dozen songs recorded live at London’s Hammersmith Odeon just a week before Clapton and his band went into the studio to record Slowhand.

The Hammersmith material includes great performances of Knocking On Heaven’s Door, Can’t Find My Way Home, Stormy Monday, I Shot The Sheriff and Layla.

Many of these tracks were previously un-released. And all of these tracks have been remastered from the original tapes.

This record spent 75 weeks on the Billboard charts when it was originally released. After listening to it again this week, it’s not hard to figure out why.

For serious Clapton fans this is a must-have.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at or 629-6000, ext. 6057.

Organizations: BBC, The Guardian

Geographic location: London, Kashmir, Alberta

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